FARGO - The head of the local Catholic diocese says he was outraged by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's front-page story Saturday, Feb. 4, because the newspaper interviewed an alleged white supremacist at a Fargo cathedral.
The story centered around Pete Tefft, a Fargo resident who's been the target of signs posted downtown accusing him of being a "Nazi." The signs show Tefft's photo and ask people to tell him he's not welcome here.
A Forum reporter first interviewed Tefft via email and later in person at St. Mary's Cathedral, a site Tefft requested. The story included a photo of Tefft standing in the downtown cathedral with a Virgin Mary statue behind him.
To voice his displeasure with the story, Bishop John Folda of the Fargo Diocese issued the following statement Saturday:
"I wish to express my outrage and objection to the article on the front page of the February 4th Fargo Forum. The subject of the interview, a Mr. Pete Tefft, insisted that the interview be conducted on the premises of St. Mary's Cathedral in Fargo without permission of church authorities, which most certainly would not have been given, especially given the contents of the story and the message presented by Mr. Tefft. The views of Mr. Tefft in no way represent the Catholic Church or the Diocese of Fargo. Mr. Tefft and the Forum's abuse of this place of worship is regrettable, and any confusion it has caused is their responsibility."
In response, Forum Editor Matt Von Pinnon said, "Mr. Tefft asked that we meet him at the Cathedral of St. Mary because he said he had a meeting there afterward. We had no reason to believe he wasn't telling the truth."
In a Facebook message to The Forum, Tefft said the cathedral had not given him permission to be interviewed there and that he did not request permission. He said he attends Mass there and that the meeting he had after the interview was for weekly adoration training that he was signed up for.
In the message, Tefft apologized to the cathedral and its parishioners for any trouble he may have caused.
"I love St. Mary's and the Fargo/Moorhead Catholic Diocese. It was the only place I felt safe and spiritually secure discussing Pro-white issues with the press," he wrote. "These days sticking up for white people is seen as heretical, especially to the cult of secularism which controls our federal Govt. I certainly wouldn't want to or have St. Mary's Cathedral do anything that would affect their 501c3 tax exempt status. Any recourse they take against me I will accept. I will continue to be a devout Catholic despite whatever happens."
Saturday's story said that when Tefft was asked via email whether the words "Nazi" and "white supremacist" were fair descriptions of him, he answered this way: "I'm a white Christian and 100 percent pro-white. 'White Supremacist' is a word used to intimidate Christians and to stifle discord when all of us should be communicating."
In both the email and in-person interviews, Tefft did not concede that the terms Nazi or white supremacist applied to him.
The posters asserting that Tefft is a "Nazi" and "a proud white supremacist" began appearing around downtown Fargo on Sunday, Jan. 29.
"If you spot Pete please make sure that he knows he is not welcome in our community through your words and actions," states the poster circulated by Luke Safely of Moorhead.
Safely said he began posting the signs after friends made him aware of Tefft and he began talking politics with Tefft online.
Tefft said the posters haven't stopped him from enjoying "our beautiful city; downtown or anywhere else."
He was noncommittal about whether he plans to file any kind of complaint or legal action over the posters.